Category Archives: The American Way: Law Politics Economics & Democracy

Freedom

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242 years ago, a group of men were forced to declare the independence of the lands they held.  Three things they agreed were priorities were to protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  They had to be willing to die.

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Since then those lands have grown.  And the people have increased to over 300 million.  And the heirs of those men have had to share the priorities with women, and the families of freed slaves.  And its been a fight.  Sometimes more violent of a fight than the original revolution that began our nation.  Sometimes a much longer fight.  One that’s lasted generations.

 

On the eve of the anniversary of the declaration of independence, can you say what your priorities are?  Are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness your main desires?  If so, what would it look like for you?

 

Life

To have a family, in whatever form we choose, in a home wherever we can afford to live safely, with the ability to educate ourselves to our maximum potential.

Liberty

To have beneficial relationships with those around us, the ability and opportunity to accumulate wealth, to create community, to make positive change in our world, to be able to decide how and by whom we are governed.

The Pursuit of Happiness

To take part in an economy that allows us to spend quality time doing the things we like with and for one another.

Anniversaries

Anniversaries are a chance to think about the past, present and future.  Consider where we have been.  Recognize where we are.  Figure out how to get where we want to go.  Can we talk about where we are in relationship to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?  Then work on where we should so next?

Can you talk about your priorities?

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Final Declaration

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

 

Excerpt from The President is Missing

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Why you want to read The President is Missing:

Participation in our democracy seems to be driven by the instant-gratification worlds of Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, and the  twenty-four-hour news cycle. We’re using modern technology to revert to primitive kinds of human relations. The media knows what sells—conflict and division. It’s also quick and easy. All too often anger works better than answers; resentment better than reason; emotion trumps evidence. A sanctimonious, sneering one-liner, no matter how bogus, is seen as straight talk, while a calm, well-argued response is seen as canned and phony. It reminds me of the old political joke: Why do you take such an instant dislike to people? It saves a lot of time.

What happened to factual, down-the-middle reporting? That’s hard to even define anymore, as the lines between fact and fiction, between truth and lies, gets murkier every day.

We can’t survive without a free press, dedicated to preserving that fine line and secure enough to follow the facts where they lead. But the current environment imposes serious pressures on our journalists, at least those who cover politics, to do just the reverse—to exercise their own power and to, in the words of one wise columnist, “abnormalize” all politicians, even honest, able ones, often because of relatively insignificant issues.

Scholars call this a false equivalency. It means that when you find a mountain to expose in one person or party, you have to pick a molehill on the other side and make it into a mountain to avoid being accused of bias. The built-up molehills also have large benefits: increased coverage on the evening news, millions of retweets, and more talk-show fodder. When the mountains and molehills all looks the same, campaigns and governments devote too little time and energy debating the issues that matter most to our people. Even when we try to do that, we’re often drowned out by the passion of the day.

There’s a real cost to this. It breeds more frustration, polarization, paralysis, bad decisions, and missed opportunities. But with no incentive to actually accomplish something, more and more politicians just go with the flow, fanning the flames of anger and resentment, when they should be acting as the fire brigade. Everybody knows it’s wrong, but the immediate rewards are so great we stagger on, just assuming that our Constitution, our public institutions, and the rule of law can endure each new assault without doing permanent damage to our freedoms and way of life.

I’d say this novel is a must read.

From Chapter 8 The President is Missing (Bill Clinton and James Patterson) © Little, Brown and Company

The most valuable tool in the police officer’s bag.

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An item indispensable in its potential to insure the safety of the officer and resolve incidents with people in the field to satisfaction is the officer’s tongue. The words used, when and how they are delivered, the tone of voice, body language, and eye contact are all part of the package. This verbal judo is the most powerful weapon that can be yielded because it has the capability of saving lives without taking lives.

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Like all complex tools, it has to be employed in combination to work effectively. An officer must combine verbal skills with training, experience, and problem solving abilities so that each individual circumstance can be given the unique approach it deserves. No two people are alike, and no police encounter is identical, regardless of the similarities or the appearance of ‘routine’ that might imply otherwise.

Most encounters involve persons who are being reactive, they are responding to the actions of the officer. We are not talking about most situations. We have to approach it from the point of view of all situations. Therefore an officer must be objective and avoid making assumptions. This allows for flexibility, so that you can adjust quickly to whatever occurs. One method is for the officer to put themselves in the position of the person they are contacting. “What would I be thinking in this situation?” “What would I do under these circumstances?”

Officers make thousands of public contacts. Overtime they have catalogued a large volume of experiences with criminals whom they have investigated. So in a interaction involving suspected criminal activity, you could substitute the former examples with “What would a person committing a crime be thinking in this situation?” “What might that person do under the circumstances?”

Officers who avail themselves of these techniques are often willing and able to use words as a tool to disarm a potentially threatening contact, to catch someone off balance, to discern whether or not physical force is required. And if physical force is not required, choose a different tact.

One of the things an officer has to prepare for is the mentality of the person who is thinking in the following pattern. Why is the officer talking to me that way? Is he trying to intimidate me? Who does he think I am? Who does he think he is? Why is he being so pushy? Where is the rude attitude coming from? The good news is that the officer can be prepared, and can prevent this person from having a negative interaction.

One final point. Everyday people can have bad days. They can be generally unpleasant. Officers see that and learn to compensate. By the same token, officers can have bad days. Some can be generally unpleasant. Let’s not excuse either of those behaviors. Because those officers find themselves all too often in situations that go bad, and everybody loses when that happens.

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Prepared text of the 2016 Stanford Commencement address by Ken Burns | Stanford News

 

Excerpt of Ken Burns Stanford Commencement Address

Our spurious sovereignty is reinforced and perpetually underscored to our obvious and great comfort, but this kind of existence actually ingrains in us a stultifying sameness that rewards conformity (not courage), ignorance and anti-intellectualism (not critical thinking). This wouldn’t be so bad if we were just wasting our own lives, but this year our political future depends on it. And there comes a time when I – and you – can no longer remain neutral, silent. We must speak up – and speak out.

“We must remain committed to the kindness and community that are the hallmarks of civilization.”

—KEN BURNS

For 216 years, our elections, though bitterly contested, have featured the philosophies and character of candidates who were clearly qualified. That is not the case this year. One is glaringly not qualified. So before you do anything with your well-earned degree, you must do everything you can to defeat the retrograde forces that have invaded our democratic process, divided our house, to fight against, no matter your political persuasion, the dictatorial tendencies of the candidate with zero experience in the much maligned but subtle art of governance; who is against lots of things, but doesn’t seem to be for anything, offering only bombastic and contradictory promises, and terrifying Orwellian statements; a person who easily lies, creating an environment where the truth doesn’t seem to matter; who has never demonstrated any interest in anyone or anything but himself and his own enrichment; who insults veterans, threatens a free press, mocks the handicapped, denigrates women, immigrants and all Muslims; a man who took more than a day to remember to disavow a supporter who advocates white supremacy and the Ku Klux Klan; an infantile, bullying man who, depending on his mood, is willing to discard old and established alliances, treaties and long-standing relationships. I feel genuine sorrow for the understandably scared and – they feel – powerless people who have flocked to his campaign in the mistaken belief that – as often happens on TV – a wand can be waved and every complicated problem can be solved with the simplest of solutions. They can’t. It is a political Ponzi scheme. And asking this man to assume the highest office in the land would be like asking a newly minted car driver to fly a 747.

As a student of history, I recognize this type. He emerges everywhere and in all eras. We see nurtured in his campaign an incipient proto-fascism, a nativist anti-immigrant Know Nothing-ism, a disrespect for the judiciary, the prospect of women losing authority over their own bodies, African Americans again asked to go to the back of the line, voter suppression gleefully promoted, jingoistic saber rattling, a total lack of historical awareness, a political paranoia that, predictably, points fingers,always making the other wrong. These are all virulent strains that have at times infected us in the past. But they now loom in front of us again – all happening at once. We know from our history books that these are the diseases of ancient and now fallen empires. The sense of commonwealth, of shared sacrifice, of trust, so much a part of American life, is eroding fast, spurred along and amplified by an amoral Internet that permits a lie to circle the globe three times before the truth can get started.

We no longer have the luxury of neutrality or “balance,” or even of bemused disdain. Many of our media institutions have largely failed to expose this charlatan, torn between a nagging responsibility to good journalism and the big ratings a media circus always delivers. In fact, they have given him the abundant airtime he so desperately craves, so much so that it has actually worn down our natural human revulsion to this kind of behavior. Hey, he’s rich; he must be doing something right. He is not. Edward R. Murrow would have exposed this naked emperor months ago. He is an insult to our history. Do not be deceived by his momentary “good behavior.” It is only a spoiled, misbehaving child hoping somehow to still have dessert.

And do not think that the tragedy in Orlando underscores his points. It does not. We must “disenthrall ourselves,” as Abraham Lincoln said, from the culture of violence and guns. And then “we shall save our country.”

This is not a liberal or conservative issue, a red state, blue state divide. This is an American issue. Many honorable people, including the last two Republican presidents, members of the party of Abraham Lincoln, have declined to support him. And I implore those “Vichy Republicans” who haveendorsed him to please, please reconsider. We must remain committed to the kindness and community that are the hallmarks of civilization and reject the troubling, unfiltered Tourette’s of his tribalism.

The next few months of your “commencement,” that is to say, your future, will be critical to the survival of our Republic. “The occasion is piled high with difficulty.” Let us pledge here today that we will not let this happen to the exquisite, yet deeply flawed, land we all love and cherish – and hope to leave intact to our posterity. Let us “nobly save,” not “meanly lose, the last best hope of earth.”

Let me speak directly to the graduating class. Watch out. Here comes the advice.

Look. I am the father of four daughters. If someone tells you they’ve been sexually assaulted, take it effing seriously. And listen to them! Maybe, some day, we will make the survivor’s eloquent statement as important as Dr. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

Try not to make the other wrong, as I just did with that “presumptive” nominee. Be for something.

Be curious, not cool. Feed your soul, too. Every day.

Remember, insecurity makes liars of us all. Not just presidential candidates.

Don’t confuse success with excellence. The poet Robert Penn Warren once told me that “careerism is death.”

Do not descend too deeply into specialism either. Educate all of your parts. You will be healthier.

Free yourselves from the limitations of the binary world. It is just a tool. A means, not an end.

Seek out – and have – mentors. Listen to them. The late theatrical director Tyrone Guthrie once said, “We are looking for ideas large enough to be afraid of again.” Embrace those new ideas. Bite off more than you can chew.

Travel. Do not get stuck in one place. Visit our national parks. Their sheer majesty may remind you of your own “atomic insignificance,” as one observer noted, but in the inscrutable ways of Nature, you will feel larger, inspirited, just as the egotist in our midst is diminished by his or her self-regard.

Insist on heroes. And be one.

Read. The book is still the greatest manmade machine of all – not the car, not the TV, not the smartphone.

Make babies. One of the greatest things that will happen to you is that you will have to worry – I mean really worry – about someone other than yourself. It is liberating and exhilarating. I promise. Ask your parents.

Do not lose your enthusiasm. In its Greek etymology, the word enthusiasm means simply, “God in us.”

Serve your country. Insist that we fight the right wars. Convince your government, as Lincoln knew, that the real threat always and still comes from within this favored land. Governments always forget that.

Insist that we support science and the arts, especially the arts. They have nothing to do with the actual defense of our country – they just make our country worth defending.

Believe, as Arthur Miller told me in an interview for my very first film on the Brooklyn Bridge, “believe, that maybe you too could add something that would last and be beautiful.”

And vote. You indelibly underscore your citizenship – and our connection with each other – when you do.

Good luck. And Godspeed.

 

Text of Commencement address

Source: Prepared text of the 2016 Stanford Commencement address by Ken Burns | Stanford News

EDITORIAL: What Happened to the Evangelical Voters? | RedState

It is when people forget God that tyrants forge their chains. Patrick Henry

Are we a nation so far gone that we have no more respect or room for our more virtuous nature? Is God, country, and family a passé notion? For years, I have championed the cause of conservatism, based on not just sound policy, but on the | Read More »

Source: EDITORIAL: What Happened to the Evangelical Voters? | RedState

Donald Trump’s Immigrant Wife & His Visa-Exploiting Modeling Agency | National Review

The H-1B visa program is exploited by Donald Trump’s modeling agency, whose poster girl is his immigrant wife.

Source: Donald Trump’s Immigrant Wife & His Visa-Exploiting Modeling Agency | National Review

Trump Supporters: Do not Read

This is not for Trump supporters or anyone who isn’t able to read more than a paragraph or comprehend polysyllabic material.

Tomorrow night, if things go the way conservatives hope and forecasters predict, Republicans will retake the Senate. Already the process stories have started, claiming that this is essentially “the Seinfeld Election,” an election about nothing. Supposedly, Republicans are winning simply by being against Barack Obama’s bad policies, instead of actually being for good policies.#ad#With constructive optimists like Joni Ernst and Cory Gardner running in my neighboring states of Iowa and Colorado, I completely disagree, but it’s important for Republicans to understand where the narrative is going next. Starting Wednesday, the cry from Democrats and the media will be that Republicans do not have a real governing agenda, that all we care about is shutting down the government, and that the supposed “GOP civil war” is back and worse than ever. Even though there will often be little data to support this handwringing analysis, the media will frame the new majority as a dysfunctional caucus with two warring factions: “Team Small Ball” vs. “Team Shutdown.”I categorically reject these categories. But there is only one way for Republicans to combat this obsession with intra-Republican debate: Go big.The media’s portrait of an agenda-less GOP rings true to many because it was true for too long: In each election, Americans had to choose between Democrats with Big Government bad ideas, and Republicans with seemingly no ideas at all and no passion for tackling the nation’s biggest problems. Heading into 2016, we cannot beat something with nothing. We have to get good at explaining what we are for.If there is one lesson of this election, it’s that the American people are desperate for real leadership. For six years, we have watched our federal government try to do more things than ever before, inserting itself into every sector of life but not really doing anything very well.The signers of the Declaration of Independence did not pledge their fortunes and sacred honor so the federal government could play “helicopter parent” to a free people. They saw government as our shared project to secure liberty, doing a few big things and doing them well. We need to get back to that.The first step is explaining to Americans that we must get our house in order. That we must take a hard look at what our government is doing in D.C. and ask tough questions. We have to state more clearly that fixing the broken parts of government is not the same as opposing government in and of itself.If elected, I want to take part in a vigorous reaffirmation of the basic American ideal of a limited government with enumerated powers. But inside that limited set of governmental duties, we should actually get the big things done. We must energetically tackle the significant problems the voters rightly want Washington to be addressing.To do that, we need a bold agenda that is easy to understand and tackles head-on the crises we face. Republicans must sell a big-cause, problem-solving vision — low-ego and happy-warrior in tone.In policy arena after policy arena, Democrats respond to every failure of clunky government by proposing the addition of still more layers to 1960s-era bureaucracies as they break down. Republicans should invite them instead into a conversation about actually modernizing government, by fundamentally overhauling outdated federal programs to become nimble enough for the age of Uber and of lifelong job retraining.I recognize that President Obama is likely to veto much of what we propose. Let him. If we aren’t at least laying out a vision of what we’re for, then many voters in the 2016 presidential election are ‎going to remain skeptical that Republicans are serious about actually tackling the biggest national policy problems before us. Here are nine bold ideas we need to get behind:1. Entitlement reform that ties the retirement age to our growing life expectancy, and that means-tests our insolvent safety-net programs instead of letting them mushroom further.2. Health reform that affirms a societal (not governmental) goal ‎of universal catastrophic health insurance by addressing the government roadblocks that make it difficult for families to choose from a broad, private-sector menu of health-insurance policies that they can keep even when changing jobs or states.3. Welfare reform that eliminates the marriage penalty and “dependency lock,” tackling today’s overlapping programs that absurdly disincentivize both healthy family structures and the move from welfare to work, which should be the fundamental goal of these programs.4. Education reform that champions more choices for parents and for those needing job retraining, making clear that our policies put students rather than incumbent institutions first.5. Tax reform that spends far less rhetorical energy on the marginal tax rate of the top 1 percent and instead begins with a goal of maximum economic growth and more opportunities for the poor and the middle class.6. Regulatory reform that doesn

Source: | National Review

Meet the New, Not More Presidential, Even More Senile, ‘Presumptive Nominee’ — RedState

There is just no stopping the Republican primary voters choice to be the GOP’s “presumptive nominee.” Donald Trump, who systematically eliminated all sixteen the most talented field of Republican presidential candidates ever seen, and who claims he can be presidential and also says he is a unifier, just wont quit. Like that stupid bunny in…

via Meet the New, Not More Presidential, Even More Senile, ‘Presumptive Nominee’ — RedState